The Invisible Hand of James Madison

Abstract

Scholars have disagreed about how to interpret James Madison's Federalist essays 10 and 51, in which he explains and justifies the underlying principles of the new Constitution. Was Madison the architect of a structure of counterpoise, which would force individuals, interests, and institutions to obstruct one another so as to avoid tyranny, or was he a republican statesman, designing a system that would recruit virtuous citizens to public office? I argue that these clashing interpretations can be reconciled by viewing Madison as a theorist who was applying Adam Smith's economic concepts to political phenomena By putting into practice Smith's insight that competition among self-interested actors can achieve the public interest, Madison incorporated both umpired strife and virtuous citizenship into the meta-principles of the Constitution.

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Prindle, D. The Invisible Hand of James Madison. Constitutional Political Economy 15, 223–237 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1023/B:COPE.0000040430.41348.c1

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  • Madison
  • Federalist
  • invisible hand